I have a Hindu altar with brass statues of Kali, Lakshmi, and two of Ganesha, the remover of obstacles and the patron saint of Mumbai, a place I hold dear. In one statue, actually two movable figures attached at the cock, Ganesha is having intercourse in the YabYum (sitting) position with a woman. (I bought it years ago in Mumbai's tumultuous Crawford Market.) That position seems right to me. When I am looking for god, I look to the cock.
Last week in a New York Times Arts Beat article, I read that 94 year old M. F. Husain, known as India's Picasso, was excluded from the largest contemporary art show in India (which opened last week) because the organizers can't guarantee his safety or the security of his work. Many of his paintings portray Hindu deities, sometimes in the nude and in sexually suggestive poses. The most famous work, "Nude Mother India" particularly upsets conservative Hindus who apparently never wander the stalls in Crawford Market. Husain left the country in 2007 after his home was vandalized and art works attacked at galleries and now lives in exile in London and Dubai. How is it possible that the ancient civilization which gave us the Kama Sutra has come down to this? Just as the artist who carved the erotic figures into temples thousands of years ago, Husain is merely looking for god in a woman's vagina.
"Nude Mother India" by M. F. Husain
Artists, poets and novelists do create beauty in this secular quest that enrages the fundamentalist and devout.
Inspired by reflections on the painting and my sexy Ganesha, I asked an old friend and poet to write an ode to female orgasm for me. He graciously complied--and here it is:
a stain spreads across the sheet
wet against the moment
movement against the grain
the wet deepens
the moment turns
electric into rhythm
rhythm into dark and free
there is no world outside this bed
there is no life but in my cunt
the moment turns
breaking truth into rhyme
there is no reason outside this time
this unrelenting wave
(all rights reserved)
R's poem led me to search for a passage in a wonderful novel I just finished: Louise Dean's The Idea of Love (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, HMH). Ex-pats living in Provence, the characters are beginning to recognize the realities of their marriages and affairs--the mundane and dismal truths of sexual desire that belie the idyllic setting. Richard, the main protagonist, travels to Africa in his job as a pharmaceutical salesman. Alone there, he senses that his domestic life is about to implode. His idea of love "seems to be just an illusion."
But while having intercourse with a one night stand, he glimpses something briefly reflected in her eyes--god, love?--that will inform his later choices.
From the novel:
“When he opened his eyes, he saw that she was staring at his face and her lips were all tragic and her eyes were wet, and he was taken aback. It nearly made him stop. He should have looked at the eyes before now. What a waste! Looking into her eyes now, he felt drawn to something holy—a fire, life—it was sensational, he strove deeper inside her and felt a surge of excitement. ‘So you think you’ll find God through a woman’s vagina?’”
It's as good a place to look as any, isn't it?
By the way, this isn't chick lit, despite the somewhat incongruous cover. They were striving for irony? Louise Dean looks unflinchingly at the human interactions we call "relationships". Her insights are as brilliant as her writing.
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